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Nielsen to measure TiVo usage

timothy posted more than 12 years ago | from the and-how-many-drives-have-you-installed dept.

Television 331

ny_cable_guy writes "The following letter went out to all of Nielsen's clients this morning: 'Working together, Nielsen Media Research and TiVo have developed software that will enable the extraction of tuning, recording and playback information from TiVo's PVR system. TiVo has downloaded this new software as part of a normal system upgrade via phone lines to existing TiVo subscribers across the country. This software would be used only by Nielsen Media Research to retrieve data from sample households, and only with permission from the household, as is the case with all homes in our samples. It is otherwise inactive in non-Nielsen homes.' The full letter has been reprinted here on netWert."

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First P0st (-1)

L0rdkariya (562469) | more than 12 years ago | (#4013535)

for Manfred Mann and censored trolls everywhere.

fp (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4013539)


Oh, that's representative. (4, Funny)

sllort (442574) | more than 12 years ago | (#4013551)

The new Nielsens are out, and there's been a bit of a shakeup in the ratings war! Friends is out of its number 1 spot, replaced by the Simpsons and second runner Junkyard Wars... Anime appears to be America's new addiction.

Re:Oh, that's representative. (5, Funny)

prator (71051) | more than 12 years ago | (#4013607)

Well, thanks to my wife, we will probably get to only watch Trading Spaces all day/every day.


Re:Oh, that's representative. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4013660)

Yeah, what's up with that ? Why do all wives want to watch Trading Spaces constantly ?

Re:Oh, that's representative. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4013726)

Do you ever notice what they're looking at? []

Re:Oh, that's representative. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4013671)

Dude, the carpenter chick is hot.

Re:Oh, that's representative. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4013696)

Indeed, she has some nice titties, and I'll bet she can suck start a B52.

Re:Oh, that's representative. (2)

uradu (10768) | more than 12 years ago | (#4013685)

In addition to Ground Force and the ever flopping breasts.

Re:Oh, that's representative. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4013735)

Thank God. I thought I was the only one with a wife that could fill up a 36 hour TiVo with Trading Spaces. Boy does she get mad at me when I change the maximum # of shows to keep on her season pass to two!

Re:Oh, that's representative. (2)

dubiousmike (558126) | more than 12 years ago | (#4013737)

That's funny. My wife does the same thing with Trading Spaces, along with Sex in the City. Now that we have a small child, Sesame Street and Barney (*shudder*) have been recording regularly. Alnog with my Six Feet Under, Simpsons and the obligitory night time trash tv like 5th Wheel.

Our viewing stats must look quite weird for a 28 year old white male.

Re:Oh, that's representative. (2)

Arkham (10779) | more than 12 years ago | (#4013803)

Oh don't be surprised if they're not. I'm a 28-year-old male also, with a wife and kid. In addition to my own shows, my TiVo gets Zooboomafoo and Sesame Street and Bear in the Big Blue House for my son, plus Forensic Files and Trading Spaces for my wife. That and the 47 other wishlists/season passes.

Well They're asking us.... (2, Insightful)

wo1verin3 (473094) | more than 12 years ago | (#4013552)

.... thats a good thing. I don't see the problem with this, and since they are asking why is this a /. article?

Re:Well They're asking us.... (4, Insightful)

geekoid (135745) | more than 12 years ago | (#4013577)

1)it involves TiVO.
2)it is nice to see that some companyies can be have in a professional manner when regarding there customers.

Market Research Society (4, Insightful)

barnaclebarnes (85340) | more than 12 years ago | (#4013722)

Of course that is because the research is being run by a market research company who is bound by certain [] ethical standards.

this prevents them from passing on identifiable data unless the respondent specifically says yes.

In most instances (99.9%) companies belonging to the MRA do follow this code. I used to work for a market research company who once tried to pass on data without permission but our group (Data processors) refused. we won as they had no moral right to make us do that.

Re:Well They're asking us.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4013745)

I have no idea what your signature is all about. Do you have any concept how offensive it is to the mammary impared women of the world for you to insult us like this. I mean realy, the notion that somebody like you, who feels a woman's worth is measured by her bra size, still exists in an enlightened modern society such as ours is utterly revolting.

This opinion is reflective of my uber knowledge. And any body that thinks otherwise can go suck your mamma.

Re:Well They're asking us.... (1)

xbrownx (459399) | more than 12 years ago | (#4013606)

Maybe because they want to keep track of what you're watching and recording?

Re:Well They're asking us.... (1)

GreyPoopon (411036) | more than 12 years ago | (#4013714)

Maybe because they want to keep track of what you're watching and recording?

ALL companies WANT to keep track of this kind of stuff. At least in this case, you have to option to refuse to participate. Unlike some companies, they aren't FORCING anyone to provide this information -- at least not yet.

Re:Well They're asking us.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4013618)

But how do we know that it's inactive in non-consenting holmes? Sure, maybe I trust TiVo not to peek, but Nielsen?? no way. It's what they do, after all.

Re:Well They're asking us.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4013644)

> holmes

Say what?

Re:Well They're asking us.... (2)

Gaijin42 (317411) | more than 12 years ago | (#4013781)

You can trust them not to peak, because your information wouldnt be part of a good random sample of all households. Therefore your information would skew the data, therefore the data would not be as valuable to the networks, and Nielsons would lose money.

Thats why they only gather info if you are already a nielsons family (which has lots of stuff to insure they are getting random samples already).

If they did this for every Tivo, they would get highly skewed results for 20-40 year old single techno-savvy males. The xfiles, lone gunmen, alias, and dark angel would all be #1 overnight.

That explains it. (3, Interesting)

NiftyNews (537829) | more than 12 years ago | (#4013559)

Hah! I just scoured the Tvio forums for the reason why my Tivo (and a few others) oddly locked up Saturday night. I guess this explains it...

Excellent! More accurate demographics helps! (5, Insightful)

Marx_Mrvelous (532372) | more than 12 years ago | (#4013563)

I'm glad to finally see this. One of the big benefits of TiVo and the like is that they can so much more closely moniter what demographics are watching which shows with more accuracy.

What this means for TV viewers is that the shows that people actually watch will more frequently stay on the air, and the commercials they show will be better suited. It's about time!

Slashdot Confuses Me (1)

sdjunky (586961) | more than 12 years ago | (#4013646)

./ confuses me.

It switches from

TIVO recording show demographic. YRO = BAD. Every viewer a thief


TIVO recording show demographic. TELEVISION = GOOD. Better shows as a result

I'm confused.

Re:Excellent! More accurate demographics helps! (5, Interesting)

plover (150551) | more than 12 years ago | (#4013703)

But what value is this, really? Think about it. TiVo viewers (along with ReplayTV viewers) DON'T WATCH COMMERCIALS. Why else would you own one of these machines?

So, what possible use could the Nielsons have for this data, since it's precisely the demographic that ignores advertisers?

Re:Excellent! More accurate demographics helps! (4, Funny)

arkanes (521690) | more than 12 years ago | (#4013759)

So they know what shows to add more and more product placement to? I suppose there's some sort of chance that this information will somehow get networks and advertisers to see the light and work toward changing the current economic model into something that works better with PVRs and other such things. Maybe by accepting lower profits, and a less dynamic industry, where it's not as easy to get rich quick (or die penniless), but a nice, stable industry. Like making gravel. Or whatever.

Re:Excellent! More accurate demographics helps! (5, Interesting)

CMiYC (6473) | more than 12 years ago | (#4013775)

Why else would you own one of these machines?

I own the machine for a variety of reasons. Not watching commercials is not why I ran out to purcahse one. Personally I travel a great deal. When I do get home, I like to be able to watch the TV shows I missed while I was gone. Sure I could that with a VCR, but it would be a pain. (of course the VCR also lets me skip commercials, but its not why I bought it a long time ago.) TiVo makes it simple to do that. When I'm home on Thursday night and Friends is coming on, I don't wait for it to be over. I watch it live. Most people are not going to waste 30 minutes of their life so that they can watch 20 minutes of TV by skipping commericals.

If TV show producers would make shows so interesting to watch that I would always want to see it ASAP (aka Live), then I wouldn't have an oppertunity to skip commericals.

Its not as if Nielson is going to base ALL of their statistical data on the TiVo's viewer's habits. The percentage of TiVo viewers is very small. However, we are real people and so it simply broadens their sample with little effort on their part.

Re:Excellent! More accurate demographics helps! (2)

dubiousmike (558126) | more than 12 years ago | (#4013824)

Actually, I know a number of PVR users that make it a point to not watch a show until it is 15 minutes into it so that they can skip the commercials.

I'd rather watch a Southpark or Simpsons episode for those 15 minutes than watch commercials. With my ReplayTV, I still see a glimpse of the commercial (well, at least 4 glimpses, one for each time I press the 30 second skip). There have definitely been times where I have gone back to check out a commercial that cought my eye in that half of a second window each they have to actually market to me.

I really don't feel bad at any lost revenue the networks might feel as no one protects my industry to make sure that I am still compensated for any stale business model I might insist on pursuing.

You don't have to wait until it's done to watch. (1)

raygundan (16760) | more than 12 years ago | (#4013862)

On the rare occasions I watch something "live," I wait 10 minutes and then start watching the show-- that way I spend 20 minutes watching 20 minutes of TV with no commercials, and it's very nearly live. In fact, you get to the end at the same time as everyone else.

That said, Tivo has made it so I practically never watch anything live, at it's scheduled time, or all at once.

Re:Excellent! More accurate demographics helps! (1)

tiedyejeremy (559815) | more than 12 years ago | (#4013783)

"(along with ReplayTV viewers) DON'T WATCH COMMERCIALS. Why else would you own one of these machines?"

Not true. I'm a ReplayTV owner and we watch commercials, occassionally. Commercials are a good opportunity to piss, munch, yell at the kids, let the cat in/out/in/out(which is it?!?!), adjust the thermostat, etc. the pause and skip technique allows for too much time. When we pause, sometimes it takes 45 minutes to do everything that could/should be done before more television is viewed. Commercial breaks limit you to 3 1/2 or so minutes. This is enough time to do most tasks.
Sometimes we use the Replay to pause tv. Sometimes to skip commercials. Mostly we use it to design our own programming schedule. We record every show about dinosaurs, yoga lessons, sesame street (4:30am), and whateverelse attracts attention.

Skipping commercials kicks ass, but is NOT the only use for these devices. Being able to pause anything when the baby cries is my favorite feature. Instant rewind, replay, slow-motion, and return-to-live are also pretty neat!

Re:Excellent! More accurate demographics helps! (1)

JordoCrouse (178999) | more than 12 years ago | (#4013784)

So, what possible use could the Nielsons have for this data, since it's precisely the demographic that ignores advertisers?

This is a great point - but the question was worded incorrectly.

The question is not what possible use the data could have, but rather what ramifications could collecting the data have? If the advertisers realize that a given show is very popular with TiVo watchers, then they *could* assume that their spots are not being watched.

Then one of two things could happen:

1) - the spots become more targeted (Can you imagine if more commercials for ThinkGeek style toys started appearing on television... mmmm...)

2) - The advertisers pull their money in favor of a less popular show amongst TiVo users.

Granted, this is a far fetched possibility (especially with popular programs like the Simpsons who obviously don't need geeks like us to get ratings), but could the TiVo data actually decide the fate of less popular shows (Junkyard Wars, Iron Chef or Adult Swim)?

Re:Excellent! More accurate demographics helps! (2)

ncc74656 (45571) | more than 12 years ago | (#4013785)

But what value is this, really? Think about it. TiVo viewers (along with ReplayTV viewers) DON'T WATCH COMMERCIALS. Why else would you own one of these machines?

Um...while skipping commercials is nice, I was doing the same thing with my VCRs. Killing ads really didn't enter into the decision to buy a TiVo. The main reason I bought my TiVo is that it makes timeshifting much simpler. You don't have to juggle the programs you want to record between multiple devices, you don't have to worry about running out of tape, etc. It also does a better job of finding what's on when and finding interesting stuff than the average VCR.

(It also helps that I can rip video from my TiVo [] , edit out the ads on my computer, and burn the result to SVCD for archival purposes. SVCDs take up less space and deliver better image quality than VHS.)

Re:Excellent! More accurate demographics helps! (1)

haa...jesus christ (576980) | more than 12 years ago | (#4013740)

well actually, only when there's a large enough ad market to support a show. this applies in the case of shows like friends, where there's a broad market appeal (and by "broad" i mean "idiot"). this doesn't work as well with shows like family guy, where i suspect something like this would have shown a devoted core of viewers, and probably a slightly larger viewership than originally thought, but in the end the advertiser dollars probably wouldn't have been there (due to the occasionally racy content, etc.). hopefully this makes sense, as i seem to be on one of my ether-induced hallucinations.

oooh! poppin' fresh!

But the next up will help more! (1)

jackb_guppy (204733) | more than 12 years ago | (#4013776)

To correctly monitor what the demographics are...

We at TiVo have sent you a free additional appliance that plugs directly in the USB port on the backs of TiVo. Please point the red arrow toward or couch or favorite chair. When you or your family, including dog or cat, sits there, the TV will automatically turn on, and change to our favorite show.

(small print)By using this appliance, you agree that a single picture can be taken every 5 seconds and the faces are scanned and the demographics are counted. Also this appliance will confirm only your family is watching this Nelson Protected Set. Per DCMA, if another person is in the room, the police will be called.

mixed bag (1)

tiedyejeremy (559815) | more than 12 years ago | (#4013565)

I don't like people spying on me, but I would like to think that nielson has real and accurate ratings. I may tell a researcher one thing that coincides with what I want, but it may not always be the truth. Spyware is the truth.

Blaine is also the truth. Blaine is a pain, and that's the truth. "They" will spy, and that's the truth.


Viewsonic (584922) | more than 12 years ago | (#4013830)

How is this spying on you when you're the one who agree'd to allow them to look at your statistics? With Tivo you need to Opt In, or Opt Out .. You have a choice to have them look at what you watch. I will always let them look at my habits because I would like to see more shows and commercials geared to what *I* like.

Well done (5, Insightful)

wilburdg (178573) | more than 12 years ago | (#4013566)

It seems to me that in this age of exploiting customer information, Nielsen has always gone out of their way to respect private information, through opt-in programs, and anonymizing data. As a marketing information company this is very unnusual, and should Nielsen should be commended for this.

Good application of the TiVO (5, Insightful)

levik (52444) | more than 12 years ago | (#4013580)

I think this is actually not bad at all. Nielsen has shown itself to be a good citizen when it comes to collecting viewing habits across the nation. And the fact that this is an opt-in feature rather than an opt-out one seems to go with that reputation.

Making these TiVOs useful to the corporate world is good, since they are getting a cheap and easy way to get to their data, and in return their interest is now vested with this machine that the MPAA isn't too comfy with. Hopefully, TiVO just got itself a supporter in the media camp.

Now perhaps if the money from Nielsen can be used to subsidise driving the subscription cost of TiVO down, I may finally get one :)

Re:Good application of the TiVO (2, Flamebait)

NoMoreNicksLeft (516230) | more than 12 years ago | (#4013808)

Hah. I must be really strange, because no one seems to agree with me.

A truly good application, would be one that let you "mark" commercials with the thumbs down button, and from that point on, Tivo would recognize the commercial and clip it out of recording AND display.

How? Well, first off, don't be a retard... refuse to subscribe. Then, if you need to, download an image of the 1.3 software, and install it. (Sorry, but the new software sucks) Then, build a crosscompiler for your linux box.

Now, how can software like this work? When you press the button, the tivo would work backward, looking for the mostly black frames that signal a wipe or transition. Once found, it forwards again, to the first few frames of the commercial, and creates a signature for them. Then, every time a new transition occurs, check if its a commercial.

And yes, I am working on it.

Voila, advertisers are put back in their proper place, a dank little hole in the ground.

Fuck you, marketdroids!

Sounds like a bright idea (3, Interesting)

Erv Walter (474) | more than 12 years ago | (#4013582)

I'm surprised it has taken this long. Letting the studios and networks know what shows I watch and what shows I pass over will hopefully steer them towards more shows that I like.

Re:Sounds like a bright idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4013669)

"hopefully steer them towards more shows that I like."

So we are all going to be watching 24/7 pr0n from now on?

Re:Sounds like a bright idea (1)

Kyeo (577916) | more than 12 years ago | (#4013800)

God I hope so.

But will it actually help? (1)

gmcraff (61718) | more than 12 years ago | (#4013791)

I've got a horrible feeling that the vast unwashed masses enthralled by the World Wrestling Federation and the Jerry Springer Show vastly outnumber the population that like "I, Claudius", "Shogun", Babylon 5, exports from the BBC, and the like.

Face it folks, the money is in bread and circuses. Real artistry doesn't pay the bills.

Spy ware in our tv's! hurrah! (-1, Flamebait)

Bob Kronkel (580551) | more than 12 years ago | (#4013584)

its about time that we have spyware in our tv's! next maybe we'll get it in our cell phones and radios.

Suuuuuuure (0, Troll)

dciman (106457) | more than 12 years ago | (#4013586)

"This software would be used only by Nielsen Media Research to retrieve data from sample households"

In the words of Dr. Evil "Riiiiiiiight"
How long until this "inactive" part of the Tivo software gets hacked by someone (ie Time Warner, etc). Or at least until that viewing information collected is "shared" with the media companies. Of course they all know that most people fast forward through the commercials already... so maybe it doesn't matter all that much. But it just gets under my skin that Tivo sent his to all of their boxes without consent. (yea yea... I am sure the EULA says they can do whatever they want)

Thank God I don't use the Tivo service anyhow.

Re:Suuuuuuure (2)

geekoid (135745) | more than 12 years ago | (#4013629)

First of all, Neilson has an excellent reputation for respecting peoples privacy.

second of all, It only applies if you are a neilson.

Thisr of all, Why would a media company need to "hack" this information? the Neilson PUBLISH there results in a fomrat that is far more valuable to media companies then hack each persons individually.

If they did break into every tivo box and gather the information, they could profit from it because advertisers and there rates go by the Neilsons.

Its good to keep an eye on this sort of activity, but its better to apply some thought into your concerns. For a change.

Rampant Paranoia (0)

rblum (211213) | more than 12 years ago | (#4013635)

While I'm all for privacy, your assumptions are /completely/ unfounded.

Time Warner might be doing a lot of (maybe unethical) thinks - but blatantly hacking into another vendors software is a bit risky even for them.

And TiVo would be out of their minds if they /shared/ that information with media companies. They might sell it, but that will get them into trouble with Nielsen.

Since Nielsen represents corporate America /and/ has a vested interest in the privacy of that data (more money for them), that is actually a good thing.

And finally, TiVo sent out the software without consent. BFD. They do that all the time with their upgrades - that's why they're automatic. Nielsen Media will not touch that data until they have got their forms signed - there's too good a reputation at stake.

And even when - most people discuss what they saw on TV at the watercooler, and order porn over Pay-Per-View. How could anonymous data collection then be a violation of privacy?

Go wake up, and fight the real fight. There's lots of things that need opposition galore - this one is not among them

Re:Suuuuuuure (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4013868)

Ugh. Troll this.

Dude, you have to be a Neilsen household PLUS you have to manually opt-in to Tivo data collection. PLUS, the data collection is anonymous. PLUS, why wouldn't you want your usage info known? Having future programing tailored to what I like to watch seems to be a good idea to me.

Why would Time Warner hack into your Tivo, and how would they do this?

You're right.. it IS a good thing you don't own a Tivo.


How do I sign up? (5, Insightful)

minus23 (250338) | more than 12 years ago | (#4013592)

I have a TiVo ... I'd love for my habits to be known. -- Errr I mean that really. -- When I change the channel because a show I don't like it comming on... I want that to count as a vote against that show. -- Vice-versa for good shows. As it is right now... no one knows what *I* think is good, except me.

Re:How do I sign up? (1)

sarasinclair (414156) | more than 12 years ago | (#4013838)

I've wanted to be in a Nielson family since I was a little kid. The concept is so simple and logical: tell the network what you like by watching it, and then they tailor their programming to match what people are interested in.

I'd be fascinated to know more about how they go about selecting families. Do they pick folks who watch a varying amount of TV per day (one hour... three hours... the TV is on 24/7)? What type of information do they collect about the families aside from age and gender? Income? Education? How many families are there all together?

Off to find answers....

omg!!!! (2, Funny)

Wakko Warner (324) | more than 12 years ago | (#4013594)

This is so invasive! Even though I have to tell them to turn it on, think of the potential for abuse!

My Rights Online are being slowly eroded!

- A.P.

Re:omg!!!! (1)

ergo98 (9391) | more than 12 years ago | (#4013717)

Out of curiousity, what is the potential for abuse?

Re:omg!!!! (4, Interesting)

bje2 (533276) | more than 12 years ago | (#4013847)

there's some big potential for abuse...ever see that epsiode of "ALF" where they become a neilsen family, and ALF somehow rigs the ratings so his favorite show (which is about to be canceled) is miracously saved by high ratings...

imagine the potential for that here...some hacker hacks the tivos...automatically opts them in for the recording...and then makes them record hours and hours of "junkyard wars"...suddenly it becomes the highest rated tv show ever...

Re:omg!!!! (2)

Daetrin (576516) | more than 12 years ago | (#4013809)

*thinking, thinking*

Sorry, as long as they go with the bit about not turning it on unless you ask and anonymizing the data, i can't really come up with any potential abuses.

this is great (1)

g0st (452654) | more than 12 years ago | (#4013595)

i never thought that would take of the ground

Good! (5, Insightful)

Clue4All (580842) | more than 12 years ago | (#4013597)

I can't count the number of times I've thought to myself "Wow, this is a really good show, I wish the network (*cough* Fox *cough*) knew how many people watched and enjoyed it, because I know they're going to can it next week." The TV rating system is both broken and unrepresentative, and this would be an excellent step in changing that.

Re:Good! (0, Troll)

skidgetron (593733) | more than 12 years ago | (#4013721)

It's just t.v. dude, would you really be that upset if they cancelled some stupid show? Read a book, or better yet, go outside, and breathe the fresh air(while you're at it, get a life). Now to be written off as a troll, or whatever it is.

Re:Good! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4013766)

Why the hell don't you go read a book instead of being an asswhipe on /. ?

Re:Good! (2)

Daetrin (576516) | more than 12 years ago | (#4013856)

"Don't be upset if they cancel the good stuff on tv, books are better anyway!"

"Books are inherently better than tv?"

"Of course they are! There's nothing good on tv anymore."


I Smell Money... (2)

cybrpnk2 (579066) | more than 12 years ago | (#4013600)

Aren't Neilson families traditionally compensated financially for keeping their notebooks? If so, I want cash to help pay for my TiVo's upkeep! Just because my diary of TV watching is kept on a Linux system instead of paper shouldn't make me a second class citizen...

Re:I Smell Money... (2)

Negadecimal (78403) | more than 12 years ago | (#4013675)

Aren't Neilson families traditionally compensated financially for keeping their notebooks?

We were a Nielson family once... they sent me a crisp $1 bill, up front. Nothing later, even after a week of accurate journaling...

Re:I Smell Money... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4013729)

The TiVo service requires a monthly fee, correct? Why not waive that fee if one chooses to provide marketing information to Nielsen?

Well, the way the web ratings worked... (2)

kikta (200092) | more than 12 years ago | (#4013797)

...was that they sent you a $50 U.S. Savings Bond every six months for participating. I know, because I was selected when they launched it back in 1997 (I think). I eventually uninstalled it and opt-ed out a year or two ago. The software had stability problems from time-to-time and the bandwidth it occasionally sucked on a modem connection were a bit of an annoyance. More importantly, I was a little worried about them knowing what freaky-ass pr0n sites I visited.

Ratings for Guide? (5, Interesting)

BitGeek (19506) | more than 12 years ago | (#4013603)

One of the things that Tivo owners don't seem to like is paying the monthly fee to get the guide.

I wonder if giving up all your viewing habits might be valuable enough to cover funding the guide.

Part of why the guide is as much as it is, is that Tivo didn't want to make a lot on the boxes, but to make it instead on the guide (give away the razor...) But the other part, that I don't think many realize, is that the correlators of this guide data see it as a goldmine and want to exploit it as much as possible. You have to have big money just to even talk to them about getting at their guide data programatically.

This is why most of the open source PVRs are using screen scraping to get guide data. (If any one knows of a free guide service with the coverage of TV Guide, please correct me!) But even then they are tenuous-- TV Guide is counting on ads covering the cost of providing the guide via the web. What will happen when they work out that so many of their page views never request the advert images?

While I'm not confident that the value of providing viewing habits would cover the cost of providing the guide-- is this a tradeoff that you would make for your PVR?

Do you feel strongly about the monthly fee for guide service, and if you do, what alternative business model would you propose?

(Apologies if this seems offtopic, was figuring a lot would be worried about having their data go away, and wondering what the would make that a viable proposition for slashdotters.)

Re:Ratings for Guide? (2)

alizard (107678) | more than 12 years ago | (#4013673)

But even then they are tenuous-- TV Guide is counting on ads covering the cost of providing the guide via the web. What will happen when they work out that so many of their page views never request the advert images?

I'd guess that so many people hit TV Guide for the usual reason that even if the entire Open Source community decided to each work on their own PVR projects, that "screenscraping" would still be insignificant.

If there's a problem, TV Guide will let us know loudly.

Re:Ratings for Guide? (1)

GigsVT (208848) | more than 12 years ago | (#4013866)

It's not a random sample whenever you do opt-in, and it gets even more warped if you let people out-in for money, at large. You will get a certain type of people, i.e. people likely to opt-in to have their marketing data exploited for discounts.

Just to help calm any paranoia... (5, Informative)

xTK-421x (531992) | more than 12 years ago | (#4013608)

Bob Poniatowski (aka TivoPony), TiVo's PR rep, posted here [] about how this doesn't monitor non-neilsen homes.

(Ripped from the post)
"'Every TiVo' is a gross overstatement. There is software we can enable if you're a Nielsen household. This software allows the Nielsen box to query the TiVo and find out what is currently being displayed onscreen. But you not only have to be a Nielsen family, meaning you opt-in to data collecting per their privacy policy, you also have to opt-in to data collection from TiVo, per our privacy policy. And, as I understand it, Nielsen comes out and does some serious wiring in your house. So it's not stealthy at all - the Nielsen households involved are well aware of what is happening. As far as how and what Nielsen measures or'd have to ask them! Again, this is only for Nielsen households - not 'every TiVo recorder'."

Why *not* to non-Neilsen homes too? (3, Interesting)

GMFTatsujin (239569) | more than 12 years ago | (#4013689)

Honestly, how many times has a show been cancelled and you've wished to yourself, "Man, I wish I had a Neisen box so those network bastards would know what I really like?"

This seems like a great opt-in opportunity to democratize the airwaves, as it were. Neilsen gets a bigger market sample to forecast with, ratings become more accurate (at least for the tech-savvy, tivo-owning demographic), and we get more input into the shows we like - more than "boycott this sponsor!" or a half-assed writein campaign.

Hell, if it meant I could opt-in, Neilsen or not, I'd buy a Tivo. You betcha.

Good (2)

NiftyNews (537829) | more than 12 years ago | (#4013610)

Why is this even news? What, because a company sold the rights to its demographics info? That happens on a daily basis.

Frankly, I see it as a good thing for everyone involved. This may require loosening your aluminum-foil hat if you're a Big Brother Is Watching type, but..
  1. Tivo makes more $$, increases its chances that it survives (along with my paid-up lifetime subscription to guide data)
  2. The networks can add one more person (me) to the audience counts of shows I like, microscopically increasing the chances that those shows are renewed
  3. Advertisors can figure out which demo I am in and can tailor their ads to me. The ads are going to be there regardless, so they might as well interest me.
  4. Advertisors are slightly more likely to advertise with/via Tivo, giving me more of those handy "Press Thumb-Up now to record this show" links during new show promos.

Not quite news.... (3, Informative)

stevel (64802) | more than 12 years ago | (#4013614)

This topic came up in the TiVo Community forum a few weeks ago, and there is a response from TiVo in the thread explaining exactly what is going on. ph p?s=&threadid=68099

In part, "There is software we can enable if you're a Nielsen household. This software allows the Nielsen box to query the TiVo and find out what is currently being displayed onscreen.

"But you not only have to be a Nielsen family, meaning you opt-in to data collecting per their privacy policy, you also have to opt-in to data collection from TiVo, per our privacy policy. "

Why don't they measure commercial usage? (5, Interesting)

swordboy (472941) | more than 12 years ago | (#4013615)

I've always wondered why they don't ask for participatory commercial effectiveness voting. The Tivo would be an ideal device for this type of system. It would work like this:

When a commercial comes on, the viewer(s) are allowed to rate it on something like a 1 - 10 system. The results could be compiled and bad commercials could be automatically blocked (as a viewer preference) while good commercials could be compiled on the Tivo's drive and watched in a manner that the late had assembled.

I *watch* the Superbowl for the commercials. If this kind of system was implemented and widespread, commercials would become more effective and entertaining (or even informative). As a sidenote, it'd be cool if slashdot did something similar. I'm hesitant to mod down a post that I might disagree with even though I still might find it interesting. I.E. - INTERESTING+1, DISAGREE+1.

The world could be a better place, eh?

Re:Why don't they measure commercial usage? (2)

superdan2k (135614) | more than 12 years ago | (#4013790)

They'll have to track demographics related to commercials, too, and the perception of a commercial over time.

On the demographics front, what a 12-year old and a 24-year old think of as "good" are two different things. If they can target ads to me based on my age/gender demographic and interests, fine by me. But I don't want to sit there and watch lame commercial after lame commercial because the Generation Y skr1pt k1dd13z think it's cool.

Furthermore, my perceptions of commercials change rapidly over time. I don't know if anyone has followed the Tour de France day-by-day over the last few years -- both ESPN and OLN have done this, and gotten a small number of sponsors. Those sponsors have their ads played constantly, and what was, at first, a commercial that I'd give about a 5, quickly becomes a -5.

This might also force a whole new glut of commercials as people get sick of old ones.

OFFTOPIC: Things I'm sick of: that f--king Geico lizard, the Lincoln Navigator ad with the jazz quartet (see Tour de France coverage on OLN), ads for The Country Bears, and that stupid buy-drugs-fund-terrorists shit (which was lame the first time they aired it).

Re:Why don't they measure commercial usage? (2)

mosch (204) | more than 12 years ago | (#4013855)

TiVo already does measure commercial viewing. A few weeks ago they released the findings of a study which noted that people watched funny commercials, and commercials with beautiful or naked chicks in them.

There's no need for a 1-10 scale, when you can already just see how many people bother watching them. Besides, TiVo would use Thumbs Up/Down, not 1-10.

it's funny, laugh! (-1, Offtopic)

anthrax_spork (532086) | more than 12 years ago | (#4013621)

A man was leaving a 7-11 with his morning coffee when he noticed a most
unusual funeral procession approaching the nearby cemetery.

A long black hearse was followed by a second long black hearse about 50


Behind the second hearse was a solitary man walking a pit bull dog on a leash. Behind him were 200 men walking single file.

The man couldn't stand the curiosity. He respectfully approached the man walking the dog and said, "I am so sorry for your loss, I know now is a bad time to disturb you, but I've never seen a funeral like this. Whose funeral is it?"

The man replied, "Well, that first hearse is for my wife."

"What happened to her?"

The man replied, "My dog attacked and killed her."

He inquired further, "Well, who is in the second hearse?"

The man answered, "My mother-in-law. She was trying to help my Wife when the dog turned on her."

A poignant and thoughtful moment of silence passes between the two men.

"Can I borrow the dog?"

"Get in line."

This kinda reminds me... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4013622)

Of the time that those Nielsen people wanted to measure my penis.

Re:This kinda reminds me... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4013670)

And you couldn't find a ruler that short, huh?

Good and bad... (4, Informative)

AlphaOne (209575) | more than 12 years ago | (#4013630)

This is both good and bad news.

The good news is that PVRs are gaining acceptance in the broadcast industry. Rather than being undermined, they're being recognized.

It also means that there are enough PVR systems (TiVo specifically) in the world that the audience is significant.

The bad news is that the various networks use the ratings to price advertising and make scheduling choices.

Since one of the major features of a PVR is to be able to rewind and fast-forward at will, an obvious side-effect is you can simply skip commercials. This is bad for advertisers for obvious reasons.

There has already been reported discussion of a higher level of product placement and "text crawl" type advertising rather than traditional commercials. PVR-based ratings will either confirm or refute the speculation that PVR users view few or no advertisements.

This in turn could motivate programmers (broadcast, not code :) ) to find new and creative (and likely very annoying) ways to advertise to their audience.

Re:Good and bad... (1)

Le Marteau (206396) | more than 12 years ago | (#4013715)

> The good news is that PVRs are gaining
> acceptance in the broadcast industry.
> Rather than being undermined,
> they're being recognized

That's horrible news. I like my ReplayTV just fine as it is, without it "gaining acceptance". Once it gains acceptance, count on them being legistlated out of existance, or having annoying, during-the-show commercials all over the screen.

People, do us PVR owners a favor. Ignore PVR's. Don't buy one, don't recommend them, don't say how great they are. The longer they don't "gain acceptance" the better.

Trust (2, Flamebait)

Rick the Red (307103) | more than 12 years ago | (#4013633)

Why is it that I trust Nielsen when they say, "This software would be used only by Nielsen Media Research to retrieve data from sample households, and only with permission from the household, as is the case with all homes in our samples," but if this news came from TiVo I'd scream for help ripping the code out of my box?

Nobody seems to have a choice. (0, Troll)

Bruha (412869) | more than 12 years ago | (#4013636)

I mean people pay 500 dollars for these things plus a subscription fee and they still have the nerve to upload spyware into your system and "Claim" it's inactive until you say to use it.

I'd probably take mine back or demand that part be removed.

Re:Nobody seems to have a choice. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4013698)

You are the reason people don't like nerds.

Re:Nobody seems to have a choice. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4013817)

You didn't read the article or any of the comments at all, did you?

You do have a choice, this will only do anything if you're already a neilson family. And where'd you pay $500 for a TiVo?

Now we'll get better commercials (2, Funny)

Rude Turnip (49495) | more than 12 years ago | (#4013648)

Since they'll be able to observe when people fast-forward through commercials, the quality and viewability of commercials will be under the gun. There are some good commercials worth watching if you're in the market for a particular product or the commercial is simply entertaining. Other commercials (ie those for feminine hygeine products) aren't worth it.

I've come to accept that if I'm not directly funding a channel like HBO with a subscription, then commercials are a way of life. So, they might as well try and pitch to me something I'd consider buying rather than talking about pouring blue water on things and playing tennis in white pants.

Does TiVo... (2)

stubear (130454) | more than 12 years ago | (#4013656) when the shows are watched and is advertisements are skipped? I'd think this information is as important and useful, if not more so, than just whether a show was watched or not. Are people watching recording Friday night shows to watch them on Tuesday night when nothing really good is on? Are some poeple not watching the entire show? why not?

Re:Does TiVo... (2)

rusty0101 (565565) | more than 12 years ago | (#4013801)

I am reasonably comfortable with the thought that the Tivo will be telling the Nielson box periodically what it being displayed on the TV. If the show is half an hour, and only 18 min. are being viewed, the comercials are probably being skipped. If it is an hour show, and view time is 40 min, liekwise. If view time is longer than show time, then the user probably paused the program for some reason, and may or may not be skipping comercials.

Given the amount of hardware that is required to support a nielson home, and so forth, the only way that I can see TW, or ATT making use of this feature is to rebuild their cable boxes so that they can connect to the serial port on a tivo (I don't think this is an option on DirecTivo) and encourage the tivo owner to cross connect them for some reason.

Then again, I could be wrong.


Nice work! (1)

bsdparasite (569618) | more than 12 years ago | (#4013664)

Finally, everyone is in your home. Everyone knows your web surfing habits (but you think that you are unpredictable). Most people know where you shop, what you buy and most of all, how much you spend. Now that they know how much TV you watch and what you watch, they can give you a "personalized" TV experience. So, let's see. You order a sneak pay-per-view show, record it on your PVR, and the next day, your kids open your snail mail box to find 100 different offers to adult magazines and a bunch of 800 numbers. Excellent way to educate your kids about sex. Just keep watching TV. And don't forget to record "similar" shows automatically, according to your taste!

Another Upgrade? (1, Troll)

javahacker (469605) | more than 12 years ago | (#4013682)

Why do companies think it's ok to "upgrade" software like this? Microsoft wants to control our computers, Nielson wants to monitor what we watch (with the help of TiVo), and these companies want to slip these changes in without real notice or discussion (especially in the case of TiVo).

What happened to the rights of the consumer? Does TiVo promise not to "upgrade" their software in a way that allows anyone else into your viewing habits, or is it just a matter of how much money they are paid? Do we have any assurance that there is not another listener on our habits, nor that they sold that right once? Could this be the same software that the court almost ordered them to install to monitor comercial skipping, used in a way that makes them money?

The right to privacy in your own home, and the ability to use devices and software you purchased, for the reasons you purchased them, seems to be in danger currently. This type of thing may be "technically legal", if the EULA is legal, but is this really how we want our world to work, totally run for the convenience of corporations?

Re:Another Upgrade? (2)

Piquan (49943) | more than 12 years ago | (#4013849)

Read the TiVo Terms of Service for yourself... they're very clearly posted on the website. See what TiVo promises.

I'm fine with TiVo's ToS... they're good about privacy, and are clearly committed to this.

I also like the automatic upgrades, just like I'd like to get a more efficient fridge or bigger TV while I'm sleeping.

Bottom line: TiVo has earned my trust, and I'm fine with them having this control over my PVR.

Advertising repercussions... (1)

Jedi Paramedic (587254) | more than 12 years ago | (#4013683)

I wonder if they'll use the data to tweak ads on TiVo so that our favorite shows don't get the advertising revenue they deserve... or maybe so they do!

For instance - every night from 6:00p - 7:00p, my Tivo is set up to record MadTV on TNN. Unless it's a funny or relevant ad, I zap through it. If these ad companies figure this out, will they stop sponsoring it?

On another topic, maybe it'll make TV more time-blind as far as ad revenues go. Since TNN repeats the weeknight MadTVs at midnight, maybe advertisers will notice that they get more bang for their buck by using cheap "overnight" ad time normally used by items seen in the "As Seen on TV!" store in the mall.

Will this bring about a revolution (Tivolution!) in advertising strategy? Will more stations put "less popular but still marketable ad time" shows at 3am under the presumption that "yes, nobody will watch it right now, but lots of people Tivo the shows and the ad space is just as valuable as primetime if that's when they're watching it" ?

OT: "As Seen on TV!" store? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4013835)

Is there really such a store? Who would go there?

When I see the "As Seen on TV" logo, I immediately associate the product with "crap." To me, it serves as a "do not buy this product" filter.

Mods: I know this is offtopic, but the idea of such a store surprised me.

Point of Failure.... (2)

Picass0 (147474) | more than 12 years ago | (#4013690)

The Nelson figures can be skewed by the fact that Tivo can "push" a program, and Tivo can watch a program that the members of the household will never view. Networks will know that the numbers are junk, but they will still base advertising rates on them.

Re:Point of Failure.... (1)

Piquan (49943) | more than 12 years ago | (#4013869)

That's the point... by using TiVo to collect the data, instead of collecting this information before the TiVo, you can get better data.

If my cable company tries to get information based on my cable box, they'll probably have misleading information for the reasons you give. But my TiVo knows what I'm watching.

Awesome. I've wanted this for years. (2, Interesting)

jkeegan (35099) | more than 12 years ago | (#4013702)

I and my wife, for the past two years, have been using and loving TiVo. And I can't tell you how many times I said that I'd sign up in a second if they wanted my permission to take my thumbs-up/down rankings and viewing habits for use in the Neilsen ratings.

As I see it, I want my viewing habits to count. If there are thousands like me that love this show and dislike that show, then that should be reflected. There have to be cases where the determine-it-via-a-sample approach don't catch everything.

And better yet, it determines what we actually watch, not what we say we watch. If I say I really like show xyz because I want to like it but never actually watch it, that should be reflected in the ratings. Any Neilsen families using log books instead of automated devices goes through a filter we don't need it to.

Awesome. Sign me up.

Nielsen continues to measure the wrong thing (3, Insightful)

ebusinessmedia1 (561777) | more than 12 years ago | (#4013723)

Why do we have a content preference measuring system that only measures preference about what broadcasters are currently 'throwing at the wall'?

Why don't they measure what consumers want *before* the fact?

Largely, mediocre content is continually thrust into the broadcast arena, and Neilsen tells us which of the mediocre broadcasts are the best ones. Does that really improve the quality of broadcasting/programming, or give consumers what they really want?

It would be refreshing to see someone come up with a way to poll users (with appropriate rewards for their time) on what broadcast consumers *want* to see, instead of telling us which bad content is the best bad content.

btw, I'm not talking about the lame broadcast "focus groups" here; they simply have consumers watching still more drek that has been modeled after broadcast content created with Neilsen ratings in mind - that's part of the problem!)

In a way, Neilsen ratings - used as broadcast and ad marketing decision tools - are the antithesis of good marketing, because they don't get at consumer preferences *before* the 'product' is created. In the current scheme of things, Neilesn ratings serve primarily producers and advertisers of content, not the consumer - and this is one very good reason why content producers and advertisers are having so much trouble surviving.

How Will They Handle Dual-Tuner Tivo's (1)

Dr. Wu (309239) | more than 12 years ago | (#4013727)

I think that this a good move, and I for one would like the option to Opt-In to have my viewing habits tracked. Especially since most of my favorite shows could use the ratings boost :D

One question, and I don't know if anyone has the answer. How will Nielson handle information gathered from the DirecTV units, which have the ability to record two shows at the same time. Barely a day goes by that I'm not taping two prime-time shows at the same time.

In a similar vein, what about shows that the viewer doesn't select for recording, but are recorded as 'Tivo Suggestions'. Since the unit is actively watching that channel, wouldn't this skew the results as well?

Dr. Wu

What about Replay TV (1)

RobertNotBob (597987) | more than 12 years ago | (#4013739)

I know that they are seperate organizations, but does anybody know if SonicBlue is going along with this for their boxes too?

I applied to be a Nielson viewer (2, Interesting)

Royster (16042) | more than 12 years ago | (#4013753)

but got turned down because of my TiVo.

A canvasser came to my door and explained how the program works. Apparently, the prior owners of the house were Neilsons as well. We filled out an application, but the canvasser didn't know if TiVo would be a problem -- it was.

We got a call a week afterward saying that we couldn't participate. I wonder if I'll get another call. If I do, I can't tell you. No one is supposed to know who the Nielson families are.

This is probably a good thing (2, Insightful)

Dark-One (24259) | more than 12 years ago | (#4013763)

The more I think about this, I would want to opt in with my tivo. Far too often I have watched some of my favorite shows go off the air. Perhaps if a large enough demographic of TiVo users do this, some of the more "geek" (for a lack of a better word) shows like futurama will stay on the air. I would be willing to bet that that audiance is largly the audiance that have TiVos.

A PVR tells ad sellers who is watching (1)

remle (73928) | more than 12 years ago | (#4013851)

Every since that AOL-TW exec said that PVR users are thieves I've been thinking he's got it backwards. Sure a lot of people fast foward through the commercials, but what about the ones that rewind to see in interesting commercial? TiVo can sell that information. You can't get that from regular TVs. PVRs give you hard data that you never had before. The networks should use it to their advantage.
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